Margaret Baker Knight Palley

Palley—Margaret Baker Knight Palley, 99, on January 17, 2018, at Friends House in Santa Rosa, Calif., of natural causes. Meg was born on January 20, 1918, in Adrian, Mich., to Kathryn Inez Baker and William Henry Knight. She grew up on a cattle farm with one sister, riding a Shetland pony to and from a one-room country schoolhouse. Her family valued both education and peace; her mother had been among the first female graduates of University of Michigan and a peace activist in World War I. Attending a Nashville Quaker workcamp led to her joining Cleveland (Ohio) Meeting in 1940. She earned her bachelor’s at Case Western Reserve University (then Western Reserve University) in 1938.

At an event to greet European Jewish refugees, she met Marshall Palley, initially mistaking him for a refugee. They married in 1941 on her parents’ farm. By 1955, they had six children, three of whom were born in Saskatchewan, Canada. Tom, the eldest, was born ten days before Marshall, refusing his conscientious objector work when it seemed to him to support the war, went to prison. He served 13 months and was later pardoned by President Eisenhower. David, Judy, Jon, Dan, and Rebecca were the other five children.

Meg worked raising the children, became active in peace and social action, and transferred her membership to Berkeley (Calif.) Meeting. She was a weaver and spinner and taught these skills to others. She and Marshall were involved in founding the John Woolman Quaker Boarding High School in the 1960s and grew to love the Sierra foothills. In 1974, they moved to Nevada City, Calif., and she joined Grass Valley Meeting there. She saw Marshall through a struggle with cancer, and he died after their 43 years of marriage. She participated in Molly Fisk’s “Writing for Healing Group” throughout her last years. Meg’s Terse Verse captured some of her favorites that she wrote or enjoyed. She could recite these as well as the Saint Francis Prayer, which she more and more lived. She kept traveling into her 90s and made new friends as she ran a bed and breakfast and then moved to cohousing in Nevada City.

Challenges included keeping a loving connection with her children as they struggled to find their own truths. She got better at this as her children found that their truths resonated with Quaker values: seeing that of God in every person, listening for the truth from within, and living in harmony with the earth. Especially in her last decade, her focus moved from outer to inner, as her journey was about peace and authentic living.

At Friends House, a Quaker community planned by families including her own in Berkeley Meeting years before, she attended meeting as she moved from a garden apartment, to Assisted Living, to Skilled Nursing over the last four years of a long and productive life as a Quaker activist and spiritual seeker. Facing death she showed no fear. In planning for her 100th birthday she was fading, on hospice care, and curious about what comes next.

When asked at the end by her daughter if they should squeeze everybody into her room, she answered, “I don’t want to squeeze anyone. I’m going where Marshall is, and there is plenty of room there.” Meg was preceded in death by her parents; her sister, Alice Jane Brattin; and her husband, Marshall Palley. She is survived by six children; sixteen grandchildren (three more by marriage); and seventeen great-grandchildren—a lively bright multi-racial crew whom she cherished.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.